Baby eczema can seem pretty worrisome. Sometimes hanging around into childhood and beyond, this itchy, irritated skin condition can cause a fair bit of distress for infants… which of course causes a fair bit of distress for mamas, too. But don’t worry — there’s hope!
Infant eczema is actually a really common condition among babies and young children, affecting about 13% of kids under 18 in the US. In many cases, it clears up without too much trouble — just a little treatment, time, and TLC. But there are also times when it can be a little tougher.
So, what can you do about it? How do you recognize eczema in babies? And what’s the best baby eczema treatment? We’ve got the answers for you.
Table of Contents 📝
- What is baby eczema?
- How do I know if my baby has eczema?
- What triggers eczema in babies?
- How do you treat baby eczema?
- Will baby eczema go away?
What is baby eczema?
Baby eczema (which sometimes goes by the name of infant eczema) is a skin condition that affects babies in their first few months of life. Like adult eczema, it causes patches of skin that are itchy, red, and crusty. Usually, it clears up by itself. In some cases, it can come and go until the age of 4 and beyond.
Before we get into that, though, let’s clear up some confusion. What is baby eczema, you ask? Well, it is actually the umbrella term for two different (but similar) conditions:
- Atopic dermatitis. The more common of the two conditions. It’s an inherited and potentially chronic condition. It most often occurs in kids with allergies and asthma, too (though it might be too early to tell if your little one has these conditions).
- Contact dermatitis. This one flares up when your baby’s skin comes into contact with an irritating substance. The good news is that it’ll usually clear up when the irritation is removed.
How do I know if my baby has eczema?
It’s not always easy for parents to diagnose eczema in babies. Some tell-tale eczema symptoms include dry, red, scaly, crusty, or tender skin. It’ll be itchy (in some cases, really itchy) and can be a little weepy.
However, these symptoms are often shared with other conditions – like cradle cap, baby acne, and things like diaper rash, too.
Cradle cap in particular causes confusion for a lot of parents. How to tell the difference? Cradle cap tends to be a bit less inflamed. It’s usually less red, a bit less scaly, and rarely causes discomfort for babies. Thought to be caused by overactive oil glands, cradle cap usually clears up all by itself within a few weeks or months. And where cradle cap aims for baby’s scalp and face, eczema might be spotted on arms and hands as well.
The treatments for cradle cap are different than those for eczema, and in fact, cradle cap doesn’t actually need to be treated. You’ll definitely want to treat eczema, though, so it’s worth it to make sure your baby has eczema vs. cradle cap or another condition. If in doubt, reach out to your doctor. A specialist’s eye will spot the difference easily enough.
What triggers eczema in babies?
What causes eczema in babies? Well, if only we knew! The skin is a weird and wonderful organ, and doctors haven’t totally figured it out yet, unfortunately.
What we do know is that the root cause of eczema is probably genetic. If you or your baby’s other parent has eczema or the atopic triad (that’s hay fever, asthma, and dermatitis), it could make eczema more likely for your baby.
Other triggers can include:
- Soap and shampoo
- Pollen, dust, or mold
- Dry air or heat
- Animal hair and pet dander
How do you treat baby eczema?
Before you give your baby any eczema treatments, it’s best to be sure they really have eczema. Like we said, if in doubt, call your doc. They’ll make sure your little peanut is getting the right treatment.
If you’ve determined your baby does have eczema, here are some treatment options:
- Keep baby away from allergy triggers. All those triggers we mentioned above? It’s best to remove them from your baby’s environment as much as possible. We know, we know, finding time to clean when you have a baby is a challenge. But staying on top of the dust, pet fur, and mold (like in the shower) can possibly help your little one avoid eczema flare ups.
- Bathe them regularly and gently. Bathing a baby with eczema is a fine balance. You want to wash off any dust and other allergy triggers, but not clean them so much that you irritate their skin. Keep baths on the short side (5-10 mins) with warm, not hot, water, and seek out gentle, unscented shampoos and soaps.
- Moisturize. Moisturizer can really help the dry skin caused by eczema. Try to moisturize your baby’s skin twice a day with a thick cream or ointment (rather than a runny lotion). And again, avoid anything scented or harsh.
- Keep ‘em cool. Heat can be a trigger for eczema in babies. Keep your baby cool with breathable clothing. If you like to crank up the heat in the winter, consider putting it at a lower setting to keep your baby cooler and preserve some of the humidity in your home’s air. You can also try a humidifier in baby’s room to prevent dry air — but clean it regularly to avoid mold!
- Special medications. If the steps above aren’t enough, don’t stress! There are medications you can try with your pediatrician’s guidance, such as mild corticosteroids. Ask your doctor what would work best for your baby.
Will baby eczema go away?
So, will baby eczema go away? We can’t say for sure, but many babies with eczema see their skin clear up before the time they start school. But some other children continue to have flare ups throughout childhood and beyond. The good news is, with effective treatment, eczema can remain no more than a temporary nuisance. Good luck, mama!